The Obama administration has released a concept paper intended to pave the way to ending the nearly two-year-long dispute of the Cross Border Trucking Pilot Program. Western Growers has worked with several federal agencies including USDA, the Department of Transportation, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative since March of 2009, to resolve this dispute as the specialty crop industry, particularly producers of grapes, pears, and strawberries have seen sales to Mexico drop considerably due to the retaliatory tariffs levied by Mexico on these, and other, U.S. agricultural products. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack phoned Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif this morning telling him of the announcement.

“We welcome this news as a positive first step in resolving a serious problem that has been detrimental to many of our growers and shippers in California and Arizona,” said Nassif.  “It is our hope that the United States government will reach a favorable agreement with Mexico and that the U.S. Congress will be ready and willing to consider and support a plan that is reasonable and fair.”

The proposal was issued today by the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide the framework for negotiations to resolve the cross-border trucking dispute with Mexico. The concept proposal identifies issues related to truck safety issues. These include requirements that drivers have good driving records and understand U.S. and state driving laws; drivers can speak sufficient English; vehicles are safe to drive and comply with emissions standards; vehicles be inspected and carriers have safety management programs in place.

Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose members grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh vegetables and about 75 percent of the fresh fruits and tree nuts in Arizona and California, about one-half of the nation’s supply of fresh produce.